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Staying Healthy - A Guide for Remote Workers

Working from home often conjures up images of sleeping in, working in PJs all day and avoiding the dreaded commute. And while this is partially true (long live the PJs!), remote work can have some drawbacks. Despite the appearance of "balance" working-from-home can bring, it can also introduce a blurred line between work time and personal time. 

Routines are more critical than ever

If you think about the one thing working in an office gives you, it's routine. You arrive at a specific time, take your lunch at a specific time, head home and usually spend a certain amount of time in traffic. It may be a bit boring, but it's consistent. Remote workers have the flexibility and freedom to get up when they want, eat when they want and to some degree, work when they want. The problem is, without a routine, work can either be delayed or excessive. Start by getting up at the same time each day. Avoid looking at your devices and instead schedule this time for a walk, quietly sit with a coffee, or read a good book. Whatever you do to start your morning, keep it consistent and choose activities that will set you up to be productive and proactive throughout the day. Checking email the minute you wake up can throw you into a flurry before your coffee maker has finished brewing. If your company is flexible about the hours you work, determine when you're most productive and build that into your routine. If you're required to perform a 9-5 workday, be sure to plan your downtime before or after, when you will enjoy it most. 

Keep on moving

In recent years, there has been a natural movement to quash the BIC (bum in chair) mentality of the workday. Working from home allows you to get up and move around when you want, without anyone looking over your shoulder. This does require some discipline from you, however. Schedule regular breaks during the day to step outside, go for a short walk or stretch. And try to plan for regular exercise a few times a week. If you used to go to the gym on the way to work, schedule a different activity at that time and stick to it. James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, explains that creating habits is about routine and structure, not willpower. He suggests creating "micro-habits," like leaving your workout clothes and running shoes beside your bed, to remind you in the morning that your day starts with a run. Whether you prefer to walk the dog every morning or ride your bike along city trails, make sure you are moving for your physical and mental health. Exercise releases endorphins that make you feel better and improve your mood. It also gives you more energy and can help clear your head when the day's stresses build up. 

Feed your soul

We all know well enough by now that fresh foods provide considerably more nutrition than packaged processed foods. Keep your fridge stocked with easy-to-reach fruits and veggies to snack on and minimize the amount of packaged foods in your cupboards. We know all too well that these are the ones that call to us when we're stressed, hungry and distracted. Keeping regular mealtimes is an effective way to maintain a healthy diet as well. While it's nice to have the flexibility to eat when you want, keeping regular meal times allows your body to stay nourished and energy levels consistent all day. It's not about what time you eat each day but about keeping a regular schedule. Breakfast at 11am and lunch at 3pm? So be it if that works for you, but be consistent and choose healthy foods.

Step Away

Perhaps even more critical than keeping regular work hours is taking time to step away from your "office" to make time for yourself and your family. A study of remote workers in 2019, before the pandemic was even a blip on the radar, showed the most prominent challenges these employees faced was unplugging after work. When your office is in the home, it's easy to get lost in your work because there's no transition from the workday to home life. There's no commute or time alone in which to switch gears and wind down. Schedule time at the end of the day to engage in an activity that allows you to make that transition - a walk around the block or a few minutes to stretch, turn off the laptop and put away papers and pens. Keep the phone out of reach while you eat dinner, and avoid logging back on in the evening.